Chris Slee

US president Donald Trump announced by tweet on December 19 his intention to withdraw US troops from Syria. This followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had often stated his intention to invade north-eastern Syria. 

Mary Merkenich together with colleagues from Highvale Secondary College at the Teachers for Refugees protest in Melbourne on November 20.

Teachers, education support staff and even some principals walked off government and private schools across Victoria and assembled at the State Library on November 20, in support of refugees currently being detained on Manus Island and Nauru. A similar protest was held in Brisbane that same day.

Thirty refugee supporters protested outside the Melbourne headquarters of Jetstar on November 9, demanding that Qantas (Jetstar's parent company) cease participating in the deportation of asylum seekers.

Turkish troops fired across the border on November 1, killing a six-year-old girl in the northern Syrian village of Til Findir.

The murder was part of a pattern of harassment by the Turkish army against the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS). The DFNS is a liberated area administered by democratic local councils, with equal representation of men and women and the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities.

There is a medical emergency on Nauru, where many physically and mentally ill refugees are being detained without proper medical treatment, according to Kathy, a refugee on the Pacific island.

"The new [Sri Lankan] government has made no substantial changes", Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajen Ponnambalam said when addressing a mainly Tamil audience in Melbourne on October 14.

Ponnambalam was referring to the government of President Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected in January 2015, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, the main backer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has supported the rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, in the southern Russian town of Sochi on September 17.

After the meeting, it was announced that Putin and Erdogan had reached an agreement on the future of Idlib, a province in northern Syria.

About a third of Victoria's firefighters have experienced bullying in the workplace and more than 95% believe that negative media coverage of their campaigns for new enterprise bargaining agreements had profoundly damaged workplace morale and led to "public aggression" and a "reluctance to disclose their occupation".

Refugee advocates are campaigning to stop the deportation of Huyen Tran, a Vietnamese woman who fled her home country by boat due to religious persecution in 2011.

About 100 people attended an election forum on transport in the Moreland local council area with some candidates on September 27. The Victorian election is on November 24.

Large rallies were held in towns throughout Idlib on September 14 in response to the threat by the Assad regime to invade the province in Syria’s north-west.

Idlib is currently controlled by a mixture of rebel groups. The strongest is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an extremely reactionary Islamist group that controls 60% of the province.

Fifty refugee supporters held a vigil on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, to commemorate the suicides of three refugees in the space of two weeks.

About 4000 Tamils rallied in Mullaitheevu on the northeast coast of the island of Sri Lanka on August 28, Tamilnet reported.

They demanded the return of land previously confiscated from its Tamil owners and given to settlers from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese ethnic majority, as well as the abandonment of irrigation projects that will result in further Sinhalese settlements in Tamil areas.

Twelve people have died in Australian offshore detention centres in the past five years as a result of murder, suicide and medical neglect, according to Angelica Panopoulos from the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

United Firefighters Union (UFU) members employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) held meetings to discuss their struggle to win enterprise agreements for their workplaces on August 20.

The proposed new agreements are still being blocked, several years after the expiry of the previous agreements. This is largely due to federal industrial relations legislation that has created a range of obstacles. CFA and MFB managements have also obstructed attempts to resolve the problems.

Of the many world-shaking events that took place in 1968, high on the list was the movement for reform in Czechoslovakia to create a democratic socialist alternative to the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorships that ruled the Soviet bloc. Chris Slee takes a look at the movement, which was dramatically ended by a Soviet Union-led invasion.

On the night of August 20/21, 1968, tanks from the armies of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria rolled into Czechoslovakia. The aim of the invaders was to crush a movement for reform.

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